Turn Up the Volume!, the joint conference of the Nevada Library Association (NLA) and the Mountain Plains Library Association (MPLA) was held in Stateline, Nevada on the shores of Lake Tahoe. The goal of my attendance was to see how a twelve-state organization such as MPLA, continues to have a high level of participation and communication among its members. In my role as the chair of the ACRL New Mexico Chapter, now past chair, I have tried to bring together academic librarians from all over the state of New Mexico to participate in professional development. What I did observe during my time at the conference was the fact that MPLA has been established for some time, and the members have been involved for many years. Our chapter is still developing and trying to figure out what our role is within NMLA and as a chapter. It has been and will continue to be a work in progress. Throughout the two-day conference I was reminded that this profession is about many things, and one of them is the need for relationships, both professional and personal.
The opening keynote speaker was the President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Greg Harris. When I first saw this on the schedule I wondered how will this opening keynote set the tone for the conference. As Harris started his talk he began with a cover of “I Fought the Law” by The Clash. Harris discussed the importance of The Clash in music history, and their influence within the “punk rock” genre. The choice of the song was key to the theme of his speech. While The Clash did not write the song, nor made it famous, everyone in the room knew of the lyrics, “I fought the law and the law won.” Originally made famous by Bobby Fuller Four and in 1978, sung by Hank Williams, Jr., different generations of library professionals who may have heard one of those versions had a shared experience. This was Harris’s point throughout: music, in whatever style, provides a shared experience. He went on to talk about the changes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame implemented over the last ten years and how the mission changed from a nostalgic based approach to a music enthusiast approach. The focus of the museum shifted to music enthusiasts that wanted the stories and history behind rock and roll, not just seeing the ephemera.
To end his speech, Harris asked if anyone knew the name Doc Pomus. One librarian in the room raised her hand. Doc Pomus was an American songwriter, whose hits included “This Magic Moment” and “Viva Las Vegas.” Harris was describing an exhibition case in the museum that had a picture of Doc on his wedding day at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, along with a place card from the wedding. Doc Pomus had polio and could not function without crutches. As the story goes, he watched his bride dance with her father, her brother, family members, and friends when he could not. On the back of the place card he wrote, “Save the Last Dance For Me” and that night after his wedding wrote the song, which became a hit for The Drifters.
Telling this story, Harris shared rock and roll history, gave the audience new information, but with the words “Save the Last Dance For Me” everyone in that room heard the song start playing in their head. It could have been any version but in that small moment everyone in that room, over 200 people, were connected. Making connections is how we build relationships, whether through music or through our roles as library professionals. This was a topic of conversation throughout the week and my focus for coming to the conference. While sessions on the most innovative tools or approaches to instruction or public service are helpful in continuing our education, one important thing is the building of relationships with other professionals in our field. Attending conferences, chapter meetings, and interactive webinars are the first steps.
The ACRL New Mexico Chapter continues to move forward with these first steps but attending this joint conference and meeting the members of MPLA, it became clear that our chapter is only as strong as our members. We have slowly built relationships throughout the state and we need to continue. Continuing discussion on this topic took place at the chapter meeting at the New Mexico Library Association Conference, ideas mentioned were virtual brown bag meetings using the conference software Zoom and ways to populate the chapter blog. It may not be as cool as music from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but we came make it New Mexican.